ELDERS ... What are they and who are they?

 

Hebrew/Greek definitions of "Elders" per Strong's concordance

*   H2205. zaqen, zaw-kane'; from H2204; old:--aged, ancient (man), elder (-est), old (man, men and . . . women), senator.

*   H7867. siyb, seeb; a prim. root; prop. to become aged, i.e. (by impl.) to grow gray:--(be) grayheaded.

*   H7868. siyb, (Chald.), seeb; corresp. to H7867:--elder. . . . . four places in Ezra only

*   G4245. presbuteros, pres-boo'-ter-os; compar. of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; spec. an Isr. Sanhedrist (also fig. member of the celestial council) or Chr. "presbyter":--elder (-est), old.

Commentary concerning Elders

This study does not pertain to casual relationships of age such as between siblings or other relationships. Rather, it pertains exclusively to Elders in the church that are recognized as being older and mature in the Lord. Elders, in this sense, should have sufficient life experience to exhibit above average wisdom, patience, and understanding. Hence an Elder, recognized by the church to serve as an Elder, should be both mature in age and in their walk with the Lord. The following 73 of 194 verses have been selected to amplify on the characteristics and duties of Elders.

 

It will be seen from a complete reading of the 194 verses in the Bible containing the terms elder or elders that when taken with the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the terms that Elders had several identifying traits:

*   They were seniors in age, i.e. older or elder.

*   They were advisors to Kings, Judges, and Priests.

*   They represented the people of their family or locality.

*   They were expected to serve those they advised and those they represented.

*   They were to serve by example and not by domination.

It is not clear how they were known to be Elders but it is clear they were distinct from other positions such as Kings, Rulers, Officers, Priests, Apostles, and so on. Also it should be noted there is no restriction regarding gender. It will be seen that holding offices such as Apostle did not preclude one from being an Elder but was in addition to being an Elder. In short Elders became Elders by experience (age) and wisdom -- not by being made Elders. They were formally recognized at times for specific purposes.

Scriptures relating to elders

  1. Gen 50:7 (KJV) And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
  2. Exo 3:18 (NIV) "The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.'
  3. Exo 4:29 (KJV) And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
  4. Exo 12:21 (KJV) Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
  5. Exo 24:1 (KJV) And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.
  6. Exo 24:9 (KJV) Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:

7.      Lev 4:15 (KJV) And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.

8.      Num 11:16 (KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.

9.      Num 11:25 (KJV) And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

10.  Deu 5:23 (KJV) And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;

11.  Deu 19:12 (KJV) Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.

12.  Deu 21:2 (KJV) Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

13.  Deu 21:3 (KJV) And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;

14.  Deu 21:4 (KJV) And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:

15.  Deu 21:6 (KJV) And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:

16.  Deu 21:19 (KJV) Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

17.  Deu 21:20 (KJV) And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

18.  Deu 22:15 (KJV) Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:

19.  Deu 22:16 (KJV) And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;

20.  Deu 22:17 (KJV) And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.

21.  Deu 22:18 (KJV) And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;

22.  Deu 25:7 (KJV) And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.

23.  Deu 25:8 (KJV) Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;

24.  Deu 25:9 (KJV) Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.

25.  Deu 29:10 (KJV) Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,

26.  Deu 31:28 (KJV) Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.

27.  Josh 8:33 (KJV) And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.

28.  Josh 20:4 (KJV) And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.

29.  Josh 23:2 (KJV) And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:

30.  Josh 24:1 (KJV) And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

31.  1 Sam 4:3 (KJV) And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

32.  1 Sam 15:30 (KJV) Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.

33.  1 Sam 30:26 (KJV) And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD;

34.  2 Sam 5:3 (KJV) So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel.

35.  2 Ki 10:5 (KJV) And he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.

36.  2 Ki 19:2 (KJV) And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.

37.  2 Chr 5:4 (KJV) And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark.

38.  Ezra 6:14 (KJV) And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

39.  Job 32:4 (KJV) Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.

40.  Psa 107:32 (KJV) Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

41.  Prov 31:23 (KJV) Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

42.  Lam 4:16 (KJV) The anger of the LORD hath divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders.

43.  Lam 5:12 (KJV) Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.

44.  Ezek 20:3 (KJV) Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.

45.  Mat 15:2 (KJV) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

46.  Mat 16:21 (KJV) From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

47.  Mat 21:23 (KJV) And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

48.  Mat 26:47 (KJV) And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

49.  Mat 26:57 (KJV) And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

50.  Mat 27:20 (KJV) But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

51.  Mat 28:12 (KJV) And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

52.  Acts 14:23 (KJV) And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

53.  Acts 15:2 (KJV) When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

54.  Acts 15:4 (KJV) And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

55.  Acts 15:6 (KJV) And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

56.  Acts 15:22 (KJV) Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

57.  Acts 15:23 (KJV) And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

58.  Acts 16:4 (KJV) And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

59.  Acts 20:17 (KJV) And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

60.  Acts 21:18 (KJV) And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

61.  Acts 22:5 (KJV) As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

62.  Rom 9:12 (KJV) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

63.  1 Tim 5:1 (KJV) Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

64.  1 Tim 5:2 (KJV) The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

65.  1 Tim 5:17 (KJV) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

66.  1 Tim 5:19 (KJV) Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

67.  (Titus 1:5-9 NIV)  The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. {6} An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. {7} Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. {8} Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. {9} He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

68.  Heb 11:2 (KJV) For by it the elders obtained a good report.

69.  James 5:14 (KJV) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

70.  1 Pet 5:1 (KJV) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

71.  1 Pet 5:5 (KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

72.  2 John 1:1 (KJV) The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

73.  3 John 1:1 (KJV) The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Summary

Clearly, the concept of Elders throughout the Bible is an important one. Elders were respected for their experience and wisdom. Elders were consulted for advice, mediation, judgments, and leadership. Elders were often involved in both secular and religious matters pertaining to God’s people. For example, they were to be called on to pray for those that were sick. Elders are consistently listed high in the hierarchy of Bible societies. For an example of hierarchy in the Church consider, “(1 Cor 12:28-29 NIV)  And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. {29} Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” Also, “(Eph 4:11-12 NIV)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up….” And, also consider, “(Acts 15:4 NIV)  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.”

 

However, Elders were subject to the same problems as all men and thus in the New Testament, at times, we see them being very wrong in their leadership roles. Particularly with regards to Jesus! Consequently, Elders must ultimately answer to those they should serve.

 

In Titus 1:5-9 Paul describes attributes for Elders to help assure worthy and capable people were recognized as Elders. Verse 6 may sound as if it excludes women, but then again many verses that say “Men or Man” clearly include women. Our own language frequently operates the same way. Remember, “(Gal 3:28 NIV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Also remember, “1 Tim 5:2 (KJV) The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” Some translations use the term “Bishop” in verse 7 but the NIV translation does better with the term “Overseer.” Overseer is a good description of the duties of an Elder. Verses 7 through 9 are still speaking of Elders and perhaps others that “Oversee” in the Church.

 

Any Church must be structured in accordance with Bible principles. Elders are a key part of that Structure. Finally, true leadership is a matter of serving those you lead. And, Christ is our prime example!